Kenya is widely known for its national parks filled with all kinds of exciting and intimidating wildlife. But Kenya also has other aces up its sleeve — beautiful mountains and busy, vibrant cities brimming with local delicacies and a friendly atmosphere.
If you want to find out more about this fascinating place, then read on and learn where to stay in Kenya.
Why You Should Visit Kenya in 2023
Kenya is a country in East Africa, perhaps most famous for the safari adventures it offers, as well as its continuous success in athletics.
There are plenty of national parks in Kenya, populated by wild animals and birds, especially large mammals like the lion, cheetah, hippopotamus, zebra, African buffalo, wildebeest, rhinoceros, and lots more.
It has an amazing combo of animals that nature enthusiasts will love to see because they can’t see them in their natural habitat elsewhere.
But Kenya is a fascinating place for a lot of other reasons. It has more than 120 ethnic groups, each of them speaking their mother tongue, making Kenya a very diverse place when it comes to culture and religion.
From wildlife safaris to pristine beaches along the Indian Ocean, Kenya offers an array of experiences for adventurers and nature enthusiasts alike.
The 4 Best Parts of Kenya
Our 3 favorite areas to stay in Kenya include:
- Nairobi: The capital of Kenya is the perfect place for those who want to experience the urban side of this wonderful country.
- Kisumu: Offering stunning views of Lake Victoria, Kisumu is perfect for nature lovers who want to go bird-watching and take lake cruises.
- Lamu Island: The place of the oldest Swahili settlement along East Africa’s coast, Lamu Island is perfect for those who’d like to learn about Swahili culture first-hand.
- Watamu: The prime beachside location in Kenya, it’s the perfect place to visit for people who want to be near stunning beaches and the Indian Ocean.
The Best Areas & Hotels in Kenya
Kenya is a country that’s generally very friendly towards tourists and has a lot of accommodation options. From guesthouses to hotels and resorts, you can find your perfect lodging regardless of where you stay in the country.
Moreover, you won’t have to worry about breaking your budget because prices are very reasonable. The same goes for restaurants and eateries, so you won’t stay hungry for long, either!
Nairobi is the capital of Kenya and also its largest city. It’s a vibrant metropolis that serves as the country’s economic, cultural, and political center.
It’s also known as the “Green City in the Sun” because it’s built on a mix of rainforest and savannah grasslands, with several rivers going through it.
Nairobi has a great position within Kenya because it offers all the city delights (and annoyances!), as well as proximity to nature like the Nairobi National Park and the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, where you can see orphaned baby elephants and feed giraffes at the Giraffe Centre.
But even if you decide to venture inside the city, you’ll find that it’s a melting pot of cultures, with various ethnic groups contributing to its diverse cuisine, music, and arts scene.
Visit the Maasai Market to shop for authentic and traditional Maasai arts and crafts, as well as from the wider East Africa region.
Nairobi’s other bustling markets, like the colorful City Market, provide glimpses into everyday life and allow you to try local delicacies and shop for authentic local items. It’s located in the bustling central business district, also home to the Jamia Mosque, which is an important religious center in Nairobi.
And if you’re looking to have a good time in the city, then you have to visit places like Unseen Nairobi, a rooftop bar and independent art house cinema that also serves superb sandwiches.
If you happen to be in Nairobi in February or March, then you can’t miss the Art Nouveau festival, which regularly draws a cool crowd and brings together artists, DJs, designers, and musicians from all over Africa.
All in all, Nairobi is a great place to visit if you want to experience Kenya’s vibrant city life but also don’t want to miss out on its natural wonders.
Things to Do
- The National Museum is a great place to visit if you want to dig deeper into Kenya’s history, culture, and art.
- If you’re a literary buff, then you’ve probably heard about Karen Blixen, a Swedish author who lived in Kenya and wrote the famous books Babette’s Feast and Out of Africa, both adapted for the screen and both receiving Oscar awards. There is a museum in Nairobi (her former house) called the Karen Blixen Museum devoted to her life and work.
- Uhuru Gardens is a park and a historical site in central Nairobi dedicated to commemorating Kenya’s independence struggle. It was the first place the independent Kenya flag was flown, and it still features a beautiful large flag of the country, along with serene gardens and lots of walking paths for visitors.
- Very close to the Jamia Mosque is the Cathedral Basilica of the Holy Family, another architectural masterpiece, this time in the form of a Catholic church, built between 1960 and 1963.
- Kenya National Archives and Documentation Service is a very important institution in Nigeria and in Africa in general. It contains ancient, pan-African artworks and documents on Kenyan history. Tours are available for certain parts of the archives building.
- Also worth visiting is the Nairobi Gallery, which has a large collection of ancient pan-African art and can be visited daily.
Where to Eat
- Cultiva is a famous restaurant in Nairobi that serves a wide variety of dishes, both Kenyan and international. It’s a bit more expensive, but it’s worth every cent, offering a unique experience of Nairobian culinary culture.
- Boho Eatery is the place to go if you want to get quality vegan food in Nairobi. It has a varied menu with East African and East Asian influences that will satisfy even the pickiest of eaters.
- About Thyme Restaurant offers quality Kenyan and international food in a relaxing setting surrounded by a well-tended garden and friendly service.
- Kilimanjaro Jamia, Kimathi Street is a place loved by locals and tourists alike, serving large portions of authentic Kenyan food in the center of Nairobi.
- The Carnivore Restaurant, as the name says, is a restaurant in Nairobi that specializes in meat dishes. It’s a very popular place with super-friendly service and lots of different meat options for meat lovers out there — they even have crocodile meat!
Nairobi Budget Hotels
- Ibis Styles Nairobi Westlands is a three-star, budget-friendly hotel in the affluent Westlands part of Nairobi. It has everything you need for a comfy stay — a private bathroom, free Wi-Fi, air conditioning, and a TV.
- Hotel Boulevard is a three-star hotel in central Nairobi. It offers cozy, bright rooms with a private bathroom. The hotel has two pools that guests can use, and it includes breakfast and dinner in the room price.
Nairobi Mid-Range Hotels
- Eka Hotel is a four-star hotel in Nairobi, near Nairobi National Park. It’s a stylish mid-range hotel with lots of amenities like an outdoor pool, a spa center, and an on-site hotel restaurant serving delicious Kenyan dishes.
- Fairmont The Norfolk is a famous five-star hotel located in a 19th-century elegant colonial building in the center of Nairobi. It has an outdoor swimming pool and a garden, as well as three restaurants and a bar, where you can delight in local and international delicacies.
Nairobi Luxury Hotels
- Villa Rosa Kempinski is a five-star upscale hotel located in the heart of the Westlands area in Nairobi. It offers elegantly styled luxurious rooms, and it also has a spa and wellness center, as well as a fitness center. You can dine at any of its three superb restaurants and swim in the rooftop pool while enjoying the panoramic views of the city.
- Nairobi Serena Hotel is a five-star landmark luxury hotel in Nairobi, renowned for its timeless elegance and the superb service it offers. Located in central Nairobi, this hotel has amazing spa facilities perfect for a relaxing day after a tourist or business stay in Nairobi, as well as a well-equipped fitness center. It has a huge outdoor pool you can swim in and sunbathing chairs for those long, hot Nairobi afternoons.
Kisumu is a port city located in western Kenya along the shores of Lake Victoria. It’s a bustling city that serves as the region’s economic, cultural, and transportation hub, and some even consider it the gateway into western Kenya, boasting an eclectic mix of urban life and natural beauty.
The city’s location makes for a pleasant climate, and it offers stunning views of Lake Victoria and the surrounding landscape.
The Kisumu Impala Sanctuary provides a haven for various wildlife species, making it a popular spot for nature enthusiasts. Kisumu’s strategic location presents a great home base for exploring nearby attractions such as Ruma National Park and Kakamega Forest.
With its blend of urban energy, lakeside tranquility, and cultural treasures, Kisumu offers visitors a unique glimpse into the diverse tapestry of Kenya’s western region.
South of the city center is Dunga Beach, a gathering place for fishing communities and a starting point for the main boat rides on Lake Victoria. The nearby Ndere Island National Park, situated in the lake, is home to diverse wildlife and offers hiking and bird-watching opportunities.
Kisumu’s cultural diversity is reflected in its people, cuisine, and traditions. The city’s markets, like Kibuye and Kondele, offer a glimpse into local life and a chance to shop for fresh produce and crafts.
Kisumu Museum is also worth visiting since it showcases the heritage of the region’s ethnic groups, including the Luo people.
Things to Do
- When you’re in Kisumu, you can take a boat ride and visit the most popular islands in Lake Victoria, like Mbita, Rusinga, or Takawiri. All of them boast beautiful sunsets and powder-white beaches.
- Bird-watching is another thing you can do on the shores of Lake Victoria, which is the second-largest freshwater lake in the world. In particular, it’s the papyrus swamps that are home to several birds not easily found anywhere else in the world, such as the papyrus canary, Carruthers’ cisticola, Papyrus Gonolek, and African Openbill.
- You can also go and explore the outskirts of Kisumu and visit famous caves and rock formations, such as Kit-Mikayi and the less well-known Abindu Caves.
Where to Eat
- Mon Ami is a restaurant in Kisumu’s center that serves local and international food. It has plenty of seating space, generously sized portions, and a friendly atmosphere.
- The Honey Bee Grill is a charming African restaurant near the shores of Lake Victoria. It serves delicious local food and has reasonable prices.
- Kalongo-Longo African Dishes & Accommodation is a restaurant in the center of Kisumu that serves delicious African dishes. You can have grilled fish, meat, salads, as well as cocktails for a very affordable price.
Kisumu Budget Hotels
- Jumuia Hotel Kisumu is a two-star, budget-friendly hotel, only a four-minute drive from Kisumu Airport. It’s a simple option offering all the basics you need for a comfy stay, as long as you don’t expect anything fancy. Breakfast is included in the room price, and there’s also an outdoor pool that guests can use.
- Imperial Hotel Express is a three-star hotel in the center of Kisumu. It’s a good value-for-money accommodation option because you get a mid-range kind of hotel for budget-friendly rates. Rooms are comfy and clean, with free Wi-Fi and air conditioning. Continental breakfast is included in the room price.
Kisumu Mid-Range Hotels
- Acacia Premier Hotel is a four-star hotel in the center of Kisumu. It’s a very nice hotel that offers stylish but comfortable rooms. It also has a rooftop pool and a bar where you can enjoy panoramic views of Lake Victoria. There’s breakfast included in the room price.
- Best Western Kisumu Hotel is a three-star hotel from the famous brand outside of Kisumu’s city center. It’s a great mid-range hotel with nice, clean rooms with private bathrooms, free Wi-Fi, air conditioning, and TV. It also serves free breakfast every morning.
Kisumu Luxury Hotels
- Grand Royal Swiss Hotel is a four-star upscale hotel on the outskirts of Kisumu. It’s noted for its impeccable service and the great staff. It has an outdoor pool, a spa and wellness center, and a fitness center. It also has three restaurants serving different types of African and international dishes.
- Ciala Resort Hotels In Kisumu is a four-star hotel outside of Kisumu’s center. It’s a great hotel with an outdoor pool, fitness center, and a garden. There’s room service available and an exceptional breakfast every morning waiting in the hotel’s restaurant.
3. Lamu Island
Lamu Island, situated off the northern coast of Kenya, is the place to go if you’re looking for a relaxed vacation spot with stunning beaches. Moreover, the island is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it’s all about tradition and authenticity.
It’s known for its preserved traditional Swahili architecture, narrow winding streets, and centuries-old way of life.
Lamu Town is the island’s largest settlement and the oldest Swahili settlement on the coast of East Africa. It’s a charming place that perfectly reflects the Swahili, Arabic, and Indian influences that have layered over time.
The streets are very narrow — there is no way for cars to pass there. This absence of modern motorized vehicles and the use of donkeys for transport further contribute to the island’s quaint, unique atmosphere.
However, that doesn’t mean there’s no means of public transport, as boda-boda motorbike taxis have sprouted up in recent years, adding to the quirkiness of Lamu Town, as well as some convenience.
Lamu also has its fair share of amazing beaches. One is Shela Beach, on the island’s east coast, stretching its white, soft sand alongside the turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean, making it perfect for relaxation and boat trips.
When in Lamu Town, you’d also probably want to visit historic sites like the Lamu Fort and the Lamu Museum, both of which provide important insights into the island’s history.
Lamu Island is also a cultural hub in Kenya and is widely known as Kenya’s “Island of Festivals.” One example is the Lamu Cultural Festival, which usually happens in November and celebrates Swahili heritage through music, dance performances, and crafts.
Things to Do
- Lamu Island allows you to explore other nearby islands from the same archipelago, one of which is Kiwayu Island. You can easily get on a speedboat and visit Kiwayu Island, a beautiful, remote paradise filled with gorgeous beaches, baobab trees, and rich animal life. Just make sure to inform yourself of the current security situation in regard to the island.
- Visit the Lamu Yoga Festival held every year in October, where you can attend various yoga workshops by experienced instructors from around the world.
- You can also book a cruise and ride on a traditional wooden boat called ‘dhow’; it’s best to do this in the early evening so you can watch the sunset.
Where to Eat
- Mangrove Restaurant is the locals’ favorite on Lamu Island. It serves traditional Swahili food, but there are a lot of options on the menu you can choose from. Guests also loved the super-friendly service and the relaxed ambiance of the place.
- Floating Restaurant Lamu is a charming little restaurant located on the water. It’s a great place to eat fresh seafood and enjoy the spectacular Kenyan sunset.
- Seafront Cafe is another great local oceanside place that serves delicious seafood specialties for an affordable price.
- Whispers Cafe is a cute cafe tucked amidst stone walls and lush greenery. It’s the perfect place to have coffee and munch on local desserts. Bonus point — it has good Wi-Fi!
Lamu Island Budget Hotels
- Beytsalam is a three-star hotel very near the Lamu Fort. It’s a beautiful, budget hotel that offers clean, bright rooms decorated in authentic local style. All rooms have private bathrooms, air conditioning, free Wi-Fi, and balconies.
- Samaki House is a guesthouse that offers quality budget-friendly rooms with breakfast included. The rooms are decorated in the traditional style of the island and have private bathrooms as well as balconies. Some even have terraces or patios and private pools.
Lamu Island Mid-Range Hotels
- Subira House is a four-star hotel housed in a traditional Swahili building. It offers simple, comfy rooms, as well as a free buffet breakfast each morning. The guesthouse also provides massages and babysitting services, and it features a library and a garden with a patio. Canoeing, hiking, and diving are all things you can do in the nearby area, as Subira House has a great location.
- Lamu House is a beautiful three-star waterfront hotel. All rooms are decorated in the Swahili style and will make you feel like you’ve been living on the island for decades. The hotel has an indoor swimming pool for its guests, as well as a restaurant and a bar.
Lamu Island Luxury Hotels
- Peponi Hotel is a four-star hotel that has been around since the 1960s. It’s an iconic hotel in the area, offering upscale rooms with elegant designs that overlook the ocean. It’s also known for its friendly owners and pet-friendly hotel policy. A bonus point is that a splendid breakfast is included in the room price.
- The Majlis Resort is a five-star luxury hotel with a private beach. It offers luxurious rooms that seamlessly blend Italian and Swahili styles with stunning views of the Indian Ocean. It also has two swimming pools, a spa, a restaurant, and a bar.
Watamu is the place to be if you’re set on exploring Kenya’s north coast, which is indeed a sight to see. It’s a beach town known for its stunning natural beauty and diverse marine life.
Set against the backdrop of the Indian Ocean, Watamu offers awe-inspiring white beaches, clear waters, and a lush coastal landscape. One of the most important places in the area is The Watamu Marine National Park and Reserve, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.
The park is a component of a series of marine and tidal environments along Kenya’s north coast that are home to a variety of fish, turtles, dugongs, and rich and varied bird life.
The park offers exceptional opportunities for snorkeling and diving. Its vibrant coral reefs teem with colorful fish, dolphins, and sea turtles. Speaking of, the nearby Watamu Turtle Watch, dedicated to the conservation of these majestic creatures, is also worth visiting.
Here, you can learn about the way local conservationists rescue sick and injured turtles and nurse them back to health.
Apart from its marine treasures, Watamu is also home to the Gede Ruins, an ancient Swahili village dating back to the 12th century. It’s a great place to learn about the region’s history and architecture.
Another interesting thing about Watamu is that there are many people in the area who speak Italian. The area’s significant Italian influence can be explained by Italians coming first to Watamu in the 1960s to work at the nearby Luigi Broglio Space Center.
When you’re here, you’re bound to see street signs in Italian; also many eateries provide Italian specialties like pasta, pizza, and gelato.
Things to Do
- During October, you can observe the leaps of enormous humpback whales into the air before they splash back into the water just a couple of feet from your boat.
- You can visit the majestic Marafa Hell’s Kitchen’s canyons, but be mindful of the strong midday sun.
- If you’re into more unconventional sports, you can try kitesurfing at Che Shale Kitesurf Center.
- If you’re into bird-watching, then you have to visit Mida Creek, a tidal inlet that’s perfect for nature enthusiasts who want to spot rare birds. You can also sign up for sunset cruises that go along Mida Creek and enjoy rare views of the surrounding landscape.
Where to Eat
- Kokomo Beach Bar & Restaurant is a new restaurant in Watamu. It’s located on Watamu Beach, and it offers splendid views of the ocean. It serves mainly Mediterranean food and is especially loved for its veggie burgers and artisan cocktails.
- Willy Beach Watamu is a beach restaurant with great prices and great seafood. Guests are particularly into the lobster and grilled octopus, and they all have high praises for the friendly staff.
- Papa Remo Beach is another beachside restaurant in Watamu. It serves a wide variety of international dishes, so it’s a great option for picky eaters.
- Swahili Cafe is a great place if you want to feel like a local, not spend too much on a meal, yet eat the tastiest Watamu has to offer. This place offers a chill, friendly atmosphere, as well as refreshing drinks and hearty meals.
Watamu Budget Hotels
- Nyumba ya Afrika is a three-star beachfront hotel. It has a great location and nice, spacious rooms with private bathrooms and free Wi-Fi. Some rooms also have a terrace or a balcony that looks towards the sea or the garden. There’s also an outdoor swimming pool for guests. The hotel can organize canoeing, diving, windsurfing, snorkeling, and other activities for you. Breakfast is included in the room price.
- Eco Villas Watamu are African-style villas for rent in Watamu, a little more than a mile away from Watamu Beach. The rooms are big, with private bathrooms and a minibar, and all have beautiful porches. The hotel also has an outdoor pool and a restaurant, and the staff organizes different sports activities, like diving, snorkeling, canoeing, and windsurfing for their guests.
Watamu Mid-Range Hotels
- Ocean Sports Resort is a three-star beachfront hotel in Watamu. It offers great rooms and services for a mid-range resort type of hotel, with breakfast included in the price. It has a great location with a special view of the sea, two swimming pools, a garden, and a laid-back ambiance. Its drawing card, however, is the wide variety of in-house organized watersports.
- Turtle Bay Beach Club is another three-star beachfront hotel in Watamu. It’s an all-inclusive hotel, meaning breakfast, lunch, and dinner are included in the price. As this is also a diving and watersports center, besides being a hotel, it also offers a number of watersports that you can try at the premises.
Watamu Luxury Hotels
- Hemingways Watamu is a five-star upscale beachfront resort. It was named after the famous writer Ernest Hemingway, who stayed in the area in 1934. The hotel offers luxury lodgings, wellness and spa facilities, as well as two swimming pools and a tennis court. It has a wonderful beachfront location offering panoramic views of the Indian Ocean. The hotel is a five-minute ride from the Gede ruins.
- The Charming Lonno Lodge is a five-star luxury hotel with a private beach. It’s a splendid hotel whose rooms are decorated with regional, locally made furniture, artwork, and decor. There’s also an outdoor swimming pool for guests, as well as a massage wellness center. If you want, you can ask the staff to organize day trips and outdoor excursions for you, as well as sports activities.
Over to You — Book Your Trip to Kenya Today!
|🏢 Best for Urban Experience||Nairobi|
|🌳 Best for Nature Lovers||Kisumu|
|🏹 Best for Cultural Experience||Lamu Island|
|⛱️ Best for Beaches||Watamu|
We hope that we’ve managed to capture even a little bit of the magic of Kenya. It’s a truly colorful country filled with different cultures and languages. It’s also brimming with natural beauty and diverse animal life and that reflects itself in all the different places we’ve chosen for this article.
Whether you want to be close to the beach and the Indian Ocean or the legendary Lake Victoria, or perhaps experience the urban side of Kenya, we have it all covered here — it’s up to you to choose where you’d like to start first!